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New North Dakota Effort To Put Marijuana On 2022 Ballot Killed By Senate

www.marijuanamoment.net April 1, 2021
New North Dakota Effort To Put Marijuana On 2022 Ballot Killed By Senate

After a House-passed bill to legalize marijuana in North Dakota was rejected by the Senate last week, some senators hatched a new plan to advance the issue by referring it to voters on the 2022 ballot. While their resolution advanced through a key committee earlier this week, the full Senate blocked it on Thursday.

Despite the fact that the deadline to introduce new legislation this session has passed, the Senate Delayed Bills Committee on Tuesday used its unique authority to advance the referendum proposal. The five-member panel cleared the proposed constitutional amendment for a first reading on the floor. But on Thursday, the full body voted 26-21 against referring the measure to a policy committee, effectively killing it.

The text of the proposal that would have gone before voters simply states: “The legislative assembly shall authorize and regulate the manufacture, sales, and use of adult-use cannabis in the state.”

It would have been up to lawmakers to craft legislation to enact legalization in a following session if voters signed off on the general idea at the ballot box.

The new legislative move came as activists with the group North Dakota Cannabis Caucus are collecting signatures to qualify a constitutional amendment legalizing cannabis for the 2022 ballot. A separate group, Legalize ND, is also planning to push for a legalization ballot measure, though details of that initiative are yet to be seen.

Given that, if the legislature had approved the latest proposal from Sen. Dick Dever (R), North Dakota could have see as many as three legalization questions on their ballot next year—a situation that would create significant complications for activists as voters attempt to choose their preferred option, potentially splitting support such that no measure receives a majority.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R) said that lawmakers are concerned that a “loud minority” of North Dakota residents would approve an expansive, advocate-led ballot measure, and so the new resolution represented an alternative that would enable the legislature to set more restrictive rules that wouldn’t, for example, allow home cultivation.

“Sometimes the best defense is when you go on offense,” Wardner told The Grand Forks Herald. “If it’s voted down—yes, I like it. I don’t want [recreational marijuana], but I’m not going to let the other two options be out there all by themselves.”

Legalize ND was among certain pro-legalization groups that were supportive of the separate House-passed legalization bill that died on the Senate floor, recognizing that it would be a step in the right direction, even if it’s more restrictive than what activists might prefer.


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